* Q1 net profits 863 mln dhs vs 556 mln dhs a year earlier
* Quarterly revenue 2.26 bln dhs, up 7 percent y-o-y
* Malls unit revenue up 15 pct y-o-y ahead of IPO spin-off (Adds details)
By Matt Smith
DUBAI, April 22 Dubai's Emaar Properties reported a 55 percent rise in first-quarter net profit on Tuesday, as the region's economic recovery brought consumers back to its malls and shopping units, and house buyers returned to the market.
The builder of the world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, reported a profit of 863 million dirhams ($234.96 million) in the three months to March 31, compared to 556 million dirhams in the prior-year period. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast profit of 873 million dirhams.
Revenue was 2.26 billion dirhams, up from 2.11 billion dirhams a year earlier, of which 38 perc
ent, or 863 million dirhams, came from Emaar's malls and shopping unit and 16 percent, or 483 million dirhams, from its hospitality and leisure unit.
Emaar diversified out of property when Dubai's housing market prices slumped by more than half from a 2008 peak when the emirate's building boom turned bust.
Over the last 18 months, Emaar has led a sector recovery, largely owing to speculative buyers returning to the home sales market.
The developer has claimed huge successes at pre-sales of its recently launched projects, as investors queued overnight to buy apartments and villas on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Emaar said it made property sales of 5.92 billion dirhams in the first quarter, nearly double that of 2013's first quarter.
Emaar's shares ended 1.4 percent higher on Dubai's main bourse before the company announced its results, taking their 2014 gains to 41 percent. They have nearly tripled in value since the start of 2013.
The company plans to spin off and sell 25 percent of Emaar Malls Group through a public offering likely to take place in London and Dubai later this year.
Investors expect Emaar's recovery to continue. According to a report by consultants Jones Lang LaSalle, another 40,000 new homes will enter Dubai's property market over the next two years as developers revive projects stalled after the collapse of the emirate's real estate market.
($1 = 3.6730 UAE Dirhams) (Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Sophie Walker)